When you are deciding where your next place of employment will be, you may have to weigh the pros and cons of joining a startup versus going to an established company. This is not always an easy decision to make because different factors play a role in what determines the best fit for you. Your decision is dependent on your career trajectory, the city you live in, and many other things that must be considered before making a final decision. Therefore, you need to learn the tradeoffs for both options, so you will be in a position that works best for your needs and wants.
Let’s put industry preferences aside and your feelings about the products being built by the company. The differences between a startup and mature company are pretty obvious to observe. An established company will provide you with more role models to gain specific knowledge, more experienced teams to collaborate with, a clear direction of where the company is headed, and seasoned leadership. Your role within the company may have a more narrow range, but it can offer more potential for intensive learning, greater benefits, well-paying compensation, and more security. You will gain insight into how a large scale business operates at its best (or worst). Furthermore, working for a corporate brand is a great addition to your resume.
Startups provide you with an entirely different world since these are companies that are just starting to gain traction in the marketplace. Therefore, you may not have many peers to collaborate with, since the company is in the beginning stages of the building process. Also, you may have to look outside of the organization for mentors. And of course, you are working with a limited budget, which can affect the company’s ability to operate effectively. One great thing is that a startup forces you to act as an entrepreneur. You can use the knowledge you have acquired to start your own business or be seen as a great asset to a bigger company.
How leadership plays a role
When considering a new job, you must look at the leadership in place within that organization. This is very important information to know because it determines how that company is run and the expectations that will be placed upon you. Serial entrepreneurs will approach operations differently than someone who is learning how to build a business for the first time. What often comes with an established company are leaders who are stuck on doing things a certain way. The tradeoffs between a startup and mature company must be factored into your decision-making process if you want to place yourself in the environment where you can function best.
Serial entrepreneurs as leaders
If you want to work within a startup where the leader knows how to pivot and adjust according to the circumstances, a serial entrepreneur is a leader you want. They understand how to raise funding since they know what information investors like to hear. These individuals are very selective about who they allow investing in their business and who sits on their company’s board. Due to past mistakes or failures, they know how to set a clear strategy and implement the right approach to execute upon the designed plan.
One negative thing about serial entrepreneurs is that they are driven to correct their past mistakes. This pursuit to be right can be both a good and bad thing. At times, they may overcorrect in problem areas they experienced previously, which means being overly critical on decisions, being afraid to spend cash on growth, or trying to scale too fast before the product has even gained good traction within the marketplace. When interviewing with a serial entrepreneur, ask questions about the lessons they learned from their previous endeavor and how they plan to apply them to their new venture.
What is best for your journey?
If you are just starting your career path, you may be wondering what type of company you should work within first, especially if you want to experience working with both. Hiring managers at early startup companies can become very wary when they come across someone who has spent more than five years at an established company since they are uncertain if the individual can adjust to the startup grind. If you fall into this particular category, it is suggested that you highlight any ground zero work you have done; this demonstrates your ability to take risks and work among ambiguity.
On the other hand, an individual with only startup experience may not be able to adjust well to the structure of an established company. Hiring managers in this position will be apprehensive about whether an individual with only startup experience can handle the complex structure of a mature organization, which requires them to have savvy communication skills. Due to your startup qualifications, you may have to sacrifice pay to work within an established company, since you will be working with people who have more experience than you. What makes an individual with startup experience a great addition to an established organization is their desire to take risks and push the boundaries. Those who are willing to take calculated risks often move up the organizational ladder fast.
In the end, no decision you make is right or wrong. It is just the option you choose to pursue. Your final decision will be based on your skills and how you fit within the organization that you choose. It also comes down to the manager who is tasked with hiring you and their management philosophy. You can try each of the two types of companies out and then decide which one best fits your personality and professional ambitions.